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Breakfast at Tiffany’s Turns 50: Celebrating Audrey Hepburn

One of Old Hollywood’s most charismatic personalities, captured through the affection lens of a dear friend.

Fifty years ago today, Breakfast at Tiffany’s made its debut. The iconic film, based on the Truman Capote novella of the same name, went on to become one of the most beloved romantic comdies of all time, and the Holly Golightly character remained the most memorable role of Edda van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston, better-known as Audrey Hepburn. Throughout her long career, no one has managed to capture Hepburn’s character, charisma, and enigma with more visual eloquence than iconic photographer Bob Willoughby, who met a young Hepburn shortly after she arrived in Hollywood in 1953 and, mesmerized by her extraordinary persona, continued to shoot her for over a decade. Over the years, Willoughby became a trusted friend who helped frame Hepburn’s life and image, both personally and professionally.

From the fine folks at Taschen () comes a formidable volume not for the faint of heart (or wallet) — Bob Willoughby: Audrey Hepburn: Photographs 1953-1966 is a lavish collector’s edition of 1,000 hand-numbered copies that comes at a hefty 14 pounds and even heftier $750 price tag. Though long sold out, you can scour Amazon and Craigslist for some used copies — but don’t expect a bargain. Still, Willoughby’s work is so poetic and enchanted it’s hard to put a price on.

I really didn’t know what to make of Audrey when I first saw her. She certainly was not the typical image of a young starlet, for that was what I had been sent to photograph. I watched her across the room as she was being photographed by Ben Fraker, and she did have something… but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I was finally introduced to her.

Then that radiant smile hit me right between the eyes, warming me inside like a shot of whisky. That amazing instant contact she made, a remarkable gift that everyone who met her felt. She exuded some magic warmth that was hers alone.”

For a more affordable homage, there’s also the excellent Breakfast at Tiffany’s: The Official 50th Anniversary Companion — a first-of-its-kind exploration of what makes the iconic movie so enduring and why it still has the same seductive magic today. The only official release published in association with Paramount Pictures and the Audrey Hepburn estate, the volume is full of rare images, candid behind-the-scenes photos, full-color reproductions of poster art, copies of the original shooting script, and other ephemera to make a movie buff’s heart bustle with joy. A foreword by the great French aristocrat and fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, who designed much of Hepburn’s wardrobe and famously had her as his muse, adds another layer of affection to what’s already a touching tribute.

Images via Taschen


Published October 5, 2011

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